Eucharist sustains on path of life

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
On the 25th anniversary of his election as the Successor of Peter, and early in the new millennium St. John Paul II on April 17, 2003 bestowed upon the church the Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. On this day, the church throughout the world was celebrating Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Paschal Triduum, the institution of the Eucharist, and the foundation for the sacrament of Holy Orders. Instituted at the Last Supper and fulfilled in the death and resurrection of the Lord on Easter morning, “the Eucharist stands at the center of the church’s life” from the beginning.
In this document St. John Paul ardently expressed his hopes and dreams for all of the Lord’s disciples in the Catholic Church throughout the world. “I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic ‘amazement’ by the present Encyclical Letter, in continuity with the Jubilee Year in 2000. To contemplate the face of Christ and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “programme” which I have set before the church at the dawn of the new millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and blood. The church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by him she is fed and by him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a mystery of light.”

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

We recall that in 2002 St. John Paul instituted the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary that begin with Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, and continue with the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and culminate with the Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian life” the iconic statement from Lumen Gentium, the document on the church from the Second Vatican Council.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a boundless fountain of new life where each generation of the faithful is called to be renewed in Eucharistic “amazement,” from the Successor of Peter in Rome to communities of faith on all points of the compass in the universal church. In recent months, the raucous rhetoric surrounding the prospective document on the Eucharist from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has misrepresented the goal of the Conference’s strategic plan for renewal in the church in the spirit of St. John Paul’s Apostolic Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. The following is an overview of a deliberative process that was well underway independent of any political distortion.
“The 2021-24 USCCB Strategic Plan will guide the Conference during the uniquely challenging times we face as a church and nation. The theme chosen for the 2021-2024 USCCB strategic plan, “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope” emerged as the result of listening sessions with Bishops, the National Advisory Council and USCCB senior staff who were asked to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing the church in the four years ahead. The need for healing and renewal through a reinvigorated focus on the Blessed Sacrament emerged as the theme most commonly discussed and embraced among the groups; as such, it naturally evolved and was adopted as the theme of the 2021-24 USCCB strategic plan that will guide the Conference over the next four years.”
Moreover, the dispersion of the faithful brought about by the pandemic gives even greater impetus to the wisdom of the strategic plan. The extensive dialogue among the bishops at the recent June meeting appears to have righted the ship and the forthcoming document on the Eucharist will align with the strategic plan for 2021-2024.
Worthiness to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, or being in the state of grace, has been part of the church’s tradition from the beginning as we read in the words of St. Paul. “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For everyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on themselves.” (1Corinthians 11:27-29)
Obviously, worthiness is a critical element that cannot be dodged because sin and scandal weaken the Body of Christ and compromise the church’s mission in this world. Worthiness and the essential call of the Lord to repentance and conversion are ever ancient and ever new, will be integral in the impending document. For sure, there is a rightful time and place for disciplinary action in the life of the church in every generation, but this publication of the Bishops’ Conference does not have the authority to address personal situations. This is the realm of a particular pastor or bishop.
Coming soon in a church near you, we will have the opportunity this summer to hear, contemplate and celebrate for several weeks the Bread of Life discourse of Jesus from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. In the words of St. John Paul II may the proclamation of these gospel passages, our Lord’s own words, be a source of Eucharistic “amazement” spiritual food to sustain us on the path of life, and the pledge of eternal life.

Our steadfast servant answered the call

(Editor’s note: Below is the homily that Bishop Kopacz delivered at the Mass of Christian Burial for Bishop Joseph N. Latino on June 9, 2021.)
By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
My first encounter with Bishop Latino was at the airport in Jackson when I arrived the night before I was announced as the 11th Bishop of Jackson on Dec. 12, 2013. He was there to welcome me. He had a very broad smile knowing that his successor was real and had arrived. His gracious and welcoming spirit remained constant over these past seven and a half years in many ways. There were some light moments even before arriving. Some mistook his middle name, Nunzio, for Nuncio, and they thought I was following the Apostolic Delegate. Others observed that my facility with the Spanish language will serve me well because I was replacing a Latino. Oh well.
Ut Unum Sint – That all may be one

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

The unity that Bishop Latino’s episcopal motto proclaimed is at the center of the great priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. This prayer has its source and summit in the unity that Jesus Christ has with the Father and the Holy Spirit, a mystery woven throughout the Gospel of John that so inspired Bishop Latino as seen in his Gospel selection for today’s Mass. The Gospel of John begins sublimely: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
In the middle of the Gospel at the Last Supper the washing of the feet commences with the bold assertion that “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from his supper, laid aside his garments, and tied a towel around himself.”
Toward the end of the Gospel on the night of the resurrection Jesus breathed into his apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit, after embracing them in peace and saying to them, “as the Father has sent me so I send you.” His apostles, anointed in the Holy Spirit and consecrated in the truth for mission, were sent to preach the Gospel as a living body, in all of their diversity. They were one!
In his Episcopal motto and in his choice of the Gospel for today’s funeral liturgy, we find the core of Bishop Latino’s vocation to the priesthood culminating in his consecration as the 10th Bishop of Jackson.
Today’s Gospel passage is under the heading “The authority of the Son of God.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life … For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.”
There is no doubt that Bishop Latino lived his priestly vocation with a deep sense of the Lord’s call and authority over his life. Throughout his 58 years and two days in the priesthood of Jesus Christ he served with the heart of the Good Shepherd, to build up his body, the church, for the salvation of all, with that graciousness we heard at the end of the passage from Thessalonians: “Encourage one another, and build one another up.”
Like the prophet Jeremiah he felt the Lord’s call to the priesthood from his youth. Like Jeremiah, there were daunting challenges as one can expect when coming forward to serve the Lord as the Book of Sirach soberly states, but once Bishop Latino put his hand to the plow he did not look back.
He was ordained in 1963 in the middle of the Second Vatican Council. Just when he thought he had all the answers after 12 years of seminary formation, in a matter of two or three years, the church and the world changed most of the questions. Obviously, he dug deeper and in the words of Sirach he set his heart and remained steadfast, by the grace of God.
Forty years later, after steadfastly serving in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux as vicar general and pastor of the Cathedral for many years, he was anticipating downsizing in his priestly duties, so to speak, like maybe a smaller parish. Oh well!
The phone rang; he took the call, and answered the call, and once again he set his heart right and remained steadfast, and moved north to become the 10th Bishop of this amazing diocese.
Bishop Latino had come forward to serve the Lord early in life, and steadfastness endured as a defining virtue of his character and his priesthood, a mindset that motivated him to work in the Lord’s vineyard in a variety of pastoral ministries, to achieve that unity for which the Lord Jesus prayed and laid down his life. Over his ten years as Bishop of Jackson, the Lord brought forth new growth, fruit that lasts to this present moment. Of course, in his unassuming matter he might say, I just stayed out of God’s way.
St. Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of ordination wrote a reflection on his priesthood entitled, Gift and Mystery. In chapter seven, he asks: Who is the Priest? What does it mean to be a priest?
He recalled the words of St. Paul. “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy.” (1Cor. 4:1-2)
We give joyful thanks for Bishop Latino’s trustworthy service for nearly six decades, for years in the fullness of his strength and as time passed accepting the changes in his health that humbled him, in the words of Sirach, our first reading.
In his retirement, at times, he grieved the physical limitations that prevented him from serving more actively in the diocese, but at the foot of the Cross his ministry of prayer and presence was a treasure for us. His early monastic formation served him well in his later years. Through it all he trusted in the Lord who called him from his youth, and in holy fear, grew old in God.
My final encounter with Bishop Latino was sitting at his bedside within hours of his death, softly saying the rosary and praying the Night Prayer, as he slowly passed from this world to the next. I spoke the words that he no longer could.
Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace. You have fulfilled your promise.
My own eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to all the nations; the glory of your people Israel.
This is the cornerstone of Night Prayer that all priests offer at day’s end, reminding us of who is the master, and whose glory is at work.
I trust that as Bishop Latino’s body wasted away, his inner self was being renewed every day, in the words of St. Paul. What is seen is transitory, what is unseen is eternal.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual life shine upon. May he rest in peace. Amen.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Nuestro serviente inquebrantable respondió al llamado

(Nota del editor: A continuación, se muestra la homilía que el obispo Kopacz pronunció en la Misa de Entierro Cristiano del obispo Joseph N. Latino el 9 de junio de 2021.)
Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Mi primer encuentro con obispo Latino fue cuando llegué al aeropuerto de Jackson, la noche antes de que me anunciaran como el undécimo obispo de Jackson, el 12 de diciembre de 2013. Él estaba allí para darme la bienvenida. Tenía una sonrisa muy amplia al saber que su sucesor era real y que ya había llegado. Su espíritu amable y acogedor se mantuvo constante durante estos últimos siete años y medio de muchas maneras. Hubo algunos momentos clarificadores incluso antes de yo llegar aquí. Algunos confundieron su segundo nombre, Nunzio, con Nuncio, y pensaron que yo estaba sustituyendo al delegado Apostólico. Otros observaron que mi facilidad con el idioma español me serviría bien porque estaba reemplazando a un Latino. ¡Oh bien!, pensando que él, en realidad descendiente de italianos, era Latinoaméricano.
Ut Unum Sint – Que todos sean uno

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

La unidad que proclama el lema episcopal de obispo Latino está en el centro de la gran oración sacerdotal de Jesús en la Última Cena en el Evangelio de Juan. Esta oración tiene su fuente y cumbre en la unidad que Jesucristo tiene con el Padre y el Espíritu Santo, un misterio tejido a lo largo del Evangelio de Juan que inspiró tanto a Obispo Latino y que fue su selección del Evangelio para la Misa de hoy.
El Evangelio de Juan comienza sublimemente: “En el principio ya existía la Palabra; y aquel que es la Palabra estaba con Dios y era Dios.“ En medio del Evangelio en la Última Cena, en el lavado de los pies comienza con la audaz afirmación de que “Jesús sabía que había venido de Dios, que iba a volver a Dios y que el Padre le había dado toda autoridad; así que, mientras estaban cenando, se levantó de la mesa, se quitó la capa y se ató una toalla a la cintura. …”
Hacia el final del Evangelio, en la noche de la resurrección, Jesús insufló a sus apóstoles el don del Espíritu Santo, después de abrazarlos en paz y decirles: “como el Padre me envió a mí, así también yo os envío.” Sus apóstoles, ungidos en el Espíritu Santo y consagrados en la verdad para la misión, fueron enviados a predicar el Evangelio como cuerpo vivo, en toda su diversidad. ¡Eran uno! En su lema episcopal y en su elección del Evangelio para la liturgia fúnebre de hoy, encontramos que el núcleo de la vocación del obispo Latino al sacerdocio culmina con su consagración como el décimo obispo de Jackson. El pasaje del Evangelio de hoy está bajo el título “La autoridad del Hijo de Dios”. “De cierto, de cierto os digo: el que oye mi palabra y cree al que me envió, tiene la vida eterna… Porque como el Padre tiene vida en sí mismo, también le ha concedido al Hijo el tener vida en sí mismo.”
No hay duda que obispo Latino vivió su vocación sacerdotal con un profundo sentido del llamado del Señor y la autoridad sobre su vida. A lo largo de sus 58 años y dos días en el sacerdocio de Jesucristo sirvió con el corazón del Buen Pastor, para edificar su cuerpo, la Iglesia, para la salvación de todos, con esa gracia que escuchamos al final del pasaje de Tesalonicenses: “Anímense unos a otros y edifíquense unos a otros”.
Como el profeta Jeremías, Obispo Latino sintió el llamado del Señor al sacerdocio desde su juventud. Al igual que a Jeremías, hubo desafíos desalentadores, como uno puede esperar al presentarse para servir al Señor y como dice sobriamente el Libro de Eclesiástico, pero una vez que el Obispo Latino puso su mano en el arado, no miró hacia atrás. Fue ordenado sacerdote en 1963 en pleno Concilio Vaticano II. Justo cuando pensaba que tenía todas las respuestas, después de 12 años de formación en el seminario, en cuestión de dos o tres años, la Iglesia y el mundo cambiaron la mayoría de las preguntas. Obviamente, cavó más profundo y en las palabras del Libro de Sirácides (Eclesiástico) puso su corazón y se mantuvo firme, por la gracia de Dios.
Cuarenta años más tarde, después de servir firmemente en la Arquidiócesis de Nueva Orleans y en la Diócesis de Houma-Thibodaux como vicario general y pastor de la Catedral durante muchos años, estaba anticipando una reducción en sus deberes sacerdotales, por así decirlo, como tal vez ir a una parroquia pequeña. ¡Oh bien! El teléfono sonó; aceptó la llamada y respondió a la llamada. Una vez más enderezó su corazón y se mantuvo firme, y se mudó al norte para convertirse en el décimo obispo de esta asombrosa diócesis.
El obispo Latino se había presentado para servir al Señor en una temprana edad, y la firmeza perduró como una virtud definitoria de su carácter y su sacerdocio, una mentalidad que lo motivó a trabajar en la viña del Señor en una variedad de ministerios pastorales, para lograr esa unidad para que el Señor Jesús oró y dio su vida.
Durante sus diez años como obispo de Jackson, el Señor produjo un nuevo crecimiento, fruto que perdura hasta el presente. Por supuesto, sin pretensiones, en sus palabras se podría decir, “simplemente me puse a su voluntad, fuera del camino de Dios.”
San Juan Pablo II, con motivo de su 50 aniversario de ordenación, escribió una reflexión sobre su sacerdocio titulada Don y Misterio. En el capítulo siete, pregunta: ¿Quién es el sacerdote? ¿Qué significa ser sacerdote? Recordó las palabras de San Pablo. “Así es como deben considerarnos, como servidores de Cristo y administradores de los misterios de Dios. Ahora se requiere que los mayordomos sean considerados dignos de confianza.” (1Cor. 4: 1-2)
Agradecemos con gozo el servicio confiable del Obispo Latino durante casi seis décadas, durante años en la plenitud de su fuerza y con el paso del tiempo aceptando los cambios en su salud que lo humillaron, como en nuestra primera lectura, las palabras de Sirácides. En su retiro, por momentos, lamentó las limitaciones físicas que le impedían servir más activamente en la diócesis, pero al pie de la Cruz, su presencia y ministerio de oración eran un tesoro para nosotros. Su temprana formación monástica le sirvió bien en sus últimos años. A pesar de todo, confió en el Señor que lo llamó desde su juventud, y con santo temor, envejeció en Dios.
Mi último encuentro con el Obispo Latino fue sentado junto a su cama pocas horas antes de su muerte, rezando el rosario en voz baja y rezandole la Oración Nocturna, mientras pasaba lentamente de este mundo al siguiente, dije las palabras que él ya no podía:
Ahora, Maestro, deja que tu sirviente se vaya en paz. Has cumplido tu promesa.
Mis propios ojos han visto tu salvación, la que has preparado a la vista de todos los pueblos.
Una luz para todas las naciones;la gloria de tu pueblo Israel.
Esta es la piedra angular de la oración nocturna que todos los sacerdotes ofrecen al final del día, recordándonos quién es el maestro y cuya gloria está en acción. Confío en que a medida que el cuerpo de Obispo Latino se consumía, su yo interior se renovaba todos los días, en las palabras de San Pablo ‘Lo que se ve es transitorio, lo que no se ve es eterno’.
Concédele, oh, Señor, el descanso eterno y deja que brille para él la vida eterna. Ya puede descansar en paz. Amén.
Que su alma y las almas de todos los fieles difuntos descansen en paz. Amén.

Corpus Christi. La solemnidad del Cuerpo y la Sangre del Señor

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Profundamente arraigada en nuestra tradición de fe, en la fiesta de la Solemnidad del Cuerpo y la Sangre del Señor, nos reunimos alrededor del Altar del Sacrificio, como lo hicieron Moisés y los israelitas al pie del monte Sinaí, para renovar y celebrar nuestra Alianza, iniciada en el Bautismo, sellada con la sangre de la Cruz y confirmada en la Resurrección.
Los israelitas salieron de la esclavitud de Egipto a un lugar de libertad en el desierto, para reunirse como Pueblo de Dios. Nos estamos reuniendo de nuevo como el Cuerpo de Cristo, en mayor número después de un año de ser esparcidos, no por la opresión de un cruel Faraón, sino por una pandemia castigadora.
Mirando más atrás en nuestra tradición de fe, nos parecemos a Noé y su familia, incluidas todas las criaturas de Dios, que estaban confinadas en su hogar flotante, hasta el día en que pudieran poner un pie en la tierra y ofrecer sacrificios a Dios.
Así también, nosotros ponemos un pie en nuestras iglesias, de toda la diócesis, de una manera más ordinaria para ofrecer sacrificio al Dios y Padre de nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

En la solemnidad más adecuada, aparte del Domingo de Resurrección, en la Solemnidad del Corpus Christi se levantó la dispensa de la obligación dominical, debidamente establecida durante más de un año, para que nuestros fieles católicos, el Cuerpo de Cristo, pudieran celebrar de nuevo el acto de culto sublime, la Santa Misa.
Me han inspirado, en este año pasado, todos los que se han reunido por hambre de la Palabra de Dios y del sacramento de la Eucaristía y todos los que han tenido un hambre profunda de estar físicamente presentes en la iglesia. Cada vez más, este anhelo se está cumpliendo a medida que la pandemia retrocede. Para aquellos que continúan separados debido a problemas de salud, espero que las circunstancias les permitan regresar a casa, más temprano que tarde.
En encuestas nacionales realizadas durante el año pasado, muchos expresaron que la pandemia, en medio del sufrimiento, la muerte y las privaciones, había fortalecido su fe en Dios y su vida espiritual. Los crisoles suelen hacer esto. Este crecimiento podría indicar una amplia gama de desarrollo personal, pero para nosotros como católicos, las señales externas de que nuestra fe en Jesucristo ha crecido son tangibles. Son el hambre de estar en comunión con él en el sacramento de su Cuerpo y Sangre, el hambre de ser parte viva del Cuerpo de Cristo, la comunidad reunida y el hambre y la sed que tenemos de justicia y reconciliación en nuestras relaciones, comenzando en casa y llegando a todos en nuestras vidas y en nuestro mundo.
El Papa Francisco continuamente aboga por un sentido más profundo de fraternidad en nuestro mundo que complemente la libertad y la igualdad. Su pasión por una mayor unidad y solidaridad entre los pueblos y las naciones surge de la fuente y cumbre de nuestra identidad católica, el santo sacrificio de la Misa.
El precioso cuerpo y la sangre del Señor es nuestro salvavidas en la fe. Cada día la Palabra de Dios resuena de acuerdo en toda la iglesia mundial, una luz en las tinieblas. El crucificado y resucitado es la luz del mundo, el pan de vida, el camino y la verdad. Su vida derramada por nosotros es alimento para el viaje y prenda de la vida eterna.
Qué precioso regalo y misterio celebramos en su amor eterno por nosotros. Cuán bendecidos somos cada vez que nos reunimos para la Eucaristía, profesando nuestra fe en que hacemos esto en memoria de Aquel que está con nosotros siempre hasta el fin de los tiempos y por toda la eternidad.
En el monte Tabor, la montaña de la Transfiguración, Pedro espetó, incrédulo de pura alegría: “Señor, ¡qué bien que estemos aquí!”. (Mateo 17: 4)
Estamos de acuerdo en que es bueno para nosotros estar de regreso en la iglesia, en nuestros lugares sagrados, donde podemos ver y celebrar la gloria de Dios que brilla en el rostro de Jesucristo, en la Solemnidad del Cuerpo y la Sangre del Señor, y durante todo el año. ¡Aleluya!

Corpus Christi The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
In a manner deeply rooted in our tradition of faith, on the feast of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we gathered around the Altar of Sacrifice, as did Moses and the Israelites at the base of Mount Sinai, to renew and celebrate our Covenant begun in Baptism, sealed in the blood of the Cross, and confirmed in the Resurrection. The Israelites emerged from slavery in Egypt to a place of freedom in the desert, in order to gather as the People of God.
We are regathering as the Body of Christ in greater numbers after a year of being scattered, not because of the oppression of a cruel Pharoah, but because of a punishing pandemic. Even further back in our tradition of faith we resemble Noah and his family, including all of God’s creatures, who were confined in their floating home, until the day they could set foot on land and offer sacrifice to God. So too, we set foot in our churches throughout the diocese in a more ordinary manner to offer sacrifice to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

On the most fitting solemnity apart from Easter Sunday, the dispensation from the Sunday Obligation was lifted on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, rightly in place for over a year, in order that our Catholic faithful, the Body of Christ, might celebrate anew our most sublime act of worship, the holy Mass.
I have been inspired by all who have gathered this past year out of hunger for God’s Word and the sacrament of the Eucharist, and by all who have had a deep hunger to be physically present in church. More and more this longing is being fulfilled as the pandemic recedes. For those, who continue to stay apart because of health concerns, may circumstances allow them to come home, sooner rather than later.
In national surveys over the past year, many expressed that the pandemic, in the throes of suffering, death and deprivation, had strengthened their faith in God and their spiritual lives. Crucibles often do this. This growth could indicate a wide range of personal development, but for us as Catholics, outward signs that our faith in Jesus Christ has grown are confirmable. They are the hunger to be in communion with him in the sacrament of his Body and Blood, the hunger to be a living part of the Body of Christ, the gathered community, and the hunger and thirst that we have for righteousness and reconciliation in our relationships, beginning at home, and reaching out to all in our lives and in our world.
Pope Francis continually pleads for a deeper sense of fraternity in our world that compliments liberty and equality. His passion for greater unity and solidarity among peoples and nations arises from the source and summit of our Catholic identity, the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
The precious body and blood of the Lord is our lifeline in faith. Each day the Word of God resounds in accord throughout the world-wide church, a light in the darkness. The crucified and risen One is the light of the world, the bread of life, the way and the truth. His life poured out for us is food for the journey and the pledge of eternal life.
What a precious gift and mystery we celebrate in his undying love for us. How blessed we are each time we gather for the Eucharist, professing our faith that we do this in memory of the One who is with us always until the end of time and for all eternity.
On Mount Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, Peter blurted out, incredulous for pure joy: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (Matthew 17:4) We concur that it is good for us to be back in church in our sacred places where we can see and celebrate the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus Christ, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, and throughout the year. Alleluia!

Language of love

In our uniqueness, the Lord calls each of us to repent and be reconciled to God for our own salvation and for the good of all.

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
While the nations rage the church eloquently proclaims in Pentecost faith: Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into the peace of God’s Kingdom. You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness. You will come in glory with salvation for your people. As we strive faithfully to fulfill the Great Commission of the Lord to make disciples of all the nations, we also embrace the enormous task of building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, the signs of which are justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
The Holy Land upon which Jesus and his first disciples crisscrossed announcing the Kingdom of God, tragically remains relentlessly tormented by hatred, violence and warfare. The truce that ended the latest round of malice is as fragile as a birds’ nest in the midst of hungry predators. Yet, as disciples of the Lord in a universal church, the Holy Spirit impels us to overcome complacency and indifference, cynicism and despair for the sake of the common good and the salvation of all.
God’s dream for our world through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is both deeply personal and inexorably universal. In our uniqueness, the Lord calls each of us to repent and be reconciled to God for our own salvation and for the good of all. This is a life lived in communities of faith in a world-wide church where uniqueness and diversity are intended to create bonds of unity. We look at the division in our church, nation and world and we wonder if unity and diversity are forever going to be out of reach.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

When snared by this chaos, the Holy Spirit always redirects us back to Jesus and the power of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension the divine outpouring in the first place. In the reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5:19ff) on Pentecost Sunday, after acknowledging the darkness that dwells within each one of us, he illustrates the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the fountain from which they well up.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. For if we live by the Spirit, let us walk also by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.” (5:24-25) It’s a big – if – that determines how we walk. It will determine whether we can create unity while cherishing diversity, or whether we will wallow in division, or worse, the violence, terror and war among nations.
In the midst of enormous divisions among the early Christian community in Corinth, marred by lawsuits, sexual immorality, disregard for the poor, abuses at the Lord’s supper, factions, and denial of the resurrection, to name a few, St. Paul remained steadfast in his belief that the Holy Spirit could bring divine order out of chaos. “There are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; there are varieties of workings, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1Cor12:4-7)
What follows is a piece of the most heralded testimony ever composed on love. St. Paul penned it, “the more excellent way.”
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (13:4-6) The Holy Spirit gave the Corinthians a way out of their chaos, and a path forward for every Christian community for all time, one generation to the next.
Historians and biblical scholars can puzzle over the Holy Spirit’s coming and its meaning 2000 years ago. But for those of us engaged in Christian ministry and outreach, there can be no doubt that the language being spoken then — and now — is the one any person can understand. It is the language of the Gospel, the Good News. It is the language of love. Yes, this is why Pentecost lives on.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of thy love.

Leguaje del amor

“ Tener amor es saber soportar;
es ser bondadoso;
es no tener envidia, ni ser presumido,
ni orgulloso, ni grosero, ni egoísta;
es no enojarse ni guardar rencor;
es no alegrarse de las injusticias,
sino de la verdad.
Tener amor es sufrirlo todo, creerlo todo, esperarlo todo, soportarlo todo.” Co 13: 4-7.

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Mientras las naciones se encolerizan, la iglesia proclama elocuentemente en la fe del Pentecostés: Señor Jesús tu vienes a reunir a las naciones en la paz del Reino de Dios. Tu vendrás en palabra y sacramento para fortalecernos en santidad. Vendrás en gloria con salvación para tu pueblo. Mientras nos esforzamos fielmente por cumplir la Gran Comisión del Señor de hacer discípulos en todas las naciones, también aceptamos la enorme tarea de construir el Reino de los Cielos en la tierra dondequiera que se proclame el Evangelio, Romanos 14:17, cuyos signos son la justicia, la paz y el gozo en el Espíritu Santo.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

La Tierra Santa en la que Jesús y sus primeros discípulos se cruzaron para anunciar el Reino de Dios, sigue trágicamente atormentada sin tregua por el odio, la violencia y el conflicto guerrerista. La tregua, que puso fin a la última ronda de malicia, es tan frágil como un nido de pájaros en medio de depredadores hambrientos. Sin embargo, como discípulos del Señor en una iglesia universal, el Espíritu Santo nos impulsa a superar la complacencia y la indiferencia, el cinismo y la desesperación por el beneficio común y la salvación de todos.
El sueño de Dios para nuestro mundo, a través del derramamiento del Espíritu Santo, es profundamente personal e inexorablemente universal. En nuestra condición de seres únicos, el Señor llama a cada uno de nosotros a arrepentirnos y reconciliarnos con Dios por nuestra propia salvación y por el bien de todos. Esta es una vida en comunidades de fe, de una iglesia mundial, donde la singularidad y la diversidad están destinadas a crear lazos de unidad. Cuando vemos la división en nuestra iglesia, nación y mundo nos preguntamos si la unidad y la diversidad estarán siempre fuera de nuestro alcance.
Cuando estamos atrapados por este caos, el Espíritu Santo siempre nos redirige de regreso a Jesús, derramamiento máximo divino, por el poder de la crucifixión, resur-
rección y ascensión. En la lectura de la carta de Pablo en Gálatas 5:19ss en el domingo de Pentecostés, después de reconocer la oscuridad que habita dentro de cada uno de nosotros, se ilustran los frutos del Espíritu Santo y la fuente de la que brotan.
“Y los que son de Cristo Jesús, ya han crucificado la naturaleza del hombre pecador junto con sus pasiones y malos deseos. Si ahora vivimos por el Espíritu, dejemos también que el Espíritu nos guíe.“ Ga 5: 24-25 Es muy importante si vivimos por el Espíritu, pues eso determina cómo caminamos; determinará si podemos crear unidad mientras apreciamos la diversidad, o si nos revolcaremos en la división o, peor aún, en la violencia, el terror y la guerra entre las naciones.
En medio de enormes divisiones entre la comunidad cristiana primitiva en Corinto, empañada por juicios, inmoralidad sexual, desprecio por los pobres, abusos en la Cena del Señor, facciones y negación de la resurrección por nombrar algunos, San Pablo se mantuvo firme en su creencia de que el Espíritu Santo podía sacar el orden divino del caos. “Hay en la iglesia diferentes dones, pero el que los concede es un mismo Espíritu. Hay diferentes maneras de servir, pero todas por encargo de un mismo Señor. Y hay diferentes manifestaciones de poder, pero es un mismo Dios, que, con su poder, lo hace todo en todos. Dios da a cada uno alguna prueba de la presencia del Espíritu, para provecho de todos.” 1Co12: 4-7
Lo que sigue es una parte del testimonio más anunciado compuesto sobre el amor y que San Pablo escribió de “la manera más excelente.”
“Tener amor es saber soportar; es ser bondadoso; es no tener envidia, ni ser presumido, ni orgulloso, ni grosero, ni egoísta; es no enojarse ni guardar rencor; es no alegrarse de las injusticias, sino de la verdad. Tener amor es sufrirlo todo, creerlo todo, esperarlo todo, soportarlo todo.” Co 13: 4-7 El Espíritu Santo les dio a los corintios una salida de su caos y un camino a seguir para cada comunidad cristiana de todos los tiempos, de una generación a la siguiente.
Los historiadores y los eruditos bíblicos pueden desconcertar la venida del Espíritu Santo y su significado hace 2000 años. Pero para aquellos de nosotros que estamos comprometidos con el ministerio cristiano y la divulgación, no puede haber duda de que el idioma que se hablaba entonces y ahora, es el que cualquier persona puede entender. Es el lenguaje del Evangelio, la Buena Nueva. Es el lenguaje del amor. Sí, es por eso por lo que Pentecostés sigue vivo.
Ven Espíritu Santo, llena los corazones de tus fieles y enciende en ellos el fuego de tu amor.

Come Holy Spirit

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Pope Francis often has described the upheavals across the globe, socially and environmentally, as a change of an era, not merely an era of change. At the center of his Holy Spirit driven dream contained in his most recent books, Fratelli Tutti and Let Us Dream, the Path to a New Future, is the hope that the world would not only extol liberty and equality as the ultimate values but would evolve to form the perfect triangle with the inclusion of fraternity.
The pending feast of Pentecost beckons as the culminating moment of the Easter season next weekend, when we celebrate the transforming power of the Holy Spirit who can renew the face of the earth, and the landscape of our hearts and minds. This is the divine drama whose culmination will be at the second coming of the Lord Jesus. The early church experienced a change of an era moment very quickly, a second Pentecost event, in the home of Cornelius, last Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts 10:25-48)
Most Catholics can identify with the first Pentecost and the birth of the church when the Holy Spirit with a strong driving wind and tongues of fire launched the proclamation of the Gospel with the 120 disciples gathered in prayer, including the 12 apostles and the Blessed Mother. Peter, the first among equals of the apostles, stood up in the midst of the emerging community of believers to address the devout Jews gathered from every nation who were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast of Weeks, the first fruits of the harvest. After Peter’s historic preaching of the Kerygma in the context of the Hebrew scriptures of salvation history, 3000 were baptized that day, all of them Jews. (Acts 2:41) The great commission of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20) to the 11 apostles before ascending into heaven, to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was in their world view a message of salvation intended exclusively for the sons and daughters of Abraham scattered in the diaspora.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

The second Pentecost moment that ushered in the change of an era did not occur at the religious, economic, and cultural center of the Jews in Jerusalem, but in the living room of a pagan. Peter, again at the center of the divine drama, was pushed and prodded by the Holy Spirit in a repetitive vision to kill and consume unclean food. (Acts 10:10-16) Peter found this repulsive and refused to indulge. Upon awakening three strangers arrived and directed him to the home of Cornelius, a centurion, where he and his family were eager to offer hospitality to the preeminent leader of the disciples of the crucified and risen Lord.
What was so dramatic about this encounter, is that Peter underwent radical conversion because mixing and mingling with Gentiles was the source of his revulsion, that which the food symbolized. He began his discourse unaware that the second downpour of Pentecost was imminent. In the middle of his preaching on the crucified and resurrected Lord of history, the Holy Spirit, more or less, went over the top of Peter and fell upon the Gentile’s with the fire of God’s love. This encounter, although off the beaten path, was at least as dramatic as the first. Peter and the pious Jews from Jerusalem were shocked that the Holy Spirit could have been poured out upon the Gentiles, the uncircumcised, the pagans, the impure. (10:46) This groundbreaking moment revealed to Peter and church leadership, all Jewish at the time, that the outpouring of blood and water on the Cross and of the Holy Spirit truly was a universal gift.
The joy overflowed for many of the believers, but this revelation caused considerable division in the early church. The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) officially resolved the question of the extent of the Mosaic Law that would be incumbent upon Gentile converts, but the battle in the trenches of church life raged for generations over the necessity of circumcision for the Gentiles, the sign of the covenant that went back to Abraham.
The first and second Pentecost moments as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles manifestly displayed that the Holy Spirit, then and now, is poured out upon the entire church, especially when gathered in prayer. At times, God’s liberating actions can take everyone by surprise.
Pope Francis calls these events, an overflow of God’s grace, and the foundation for what Pope he sees as the need for active Synodality in the Church. These forums for prayer, dialogue and discernment, where the community of believers gather, ordained and laity, are as essential to the church in the third millennium as they were in the first. They give witness to the liberty we know in Jesus Christ, the equality of dignity that all people possess made in the image and likeness of God, and the fraternity that is inherent in the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations. Indeed, come Holy Spirit in our time, and infuse the church with the breath of God, who is ever ancient and ever new.

Ven Espíritu Santo

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
A menudo, el Papa Francisco ha descrito los trastornos sociales y ambientales en todo el mundo como un cambio de era, no simplemente como una era de cambio. En el centro de su sueño impulsado por el Espíritu Santo contenido en sus libros más recientes, Fratelli Tutti (Carta encíclica sobre la Fraternidad y Amistad Social), el libro Let Us Dream the Path to a New Future, (Soñemos Juntos, El Camino a un Futuro Mejor), está la esperanza de que el mundo no solo ensalce la libertad y la igualdad como los valores últimos, sino que evolucione para formar el triángulo perfecto con la inclusión de la fraternidad.
La fiesta de Pentecostés, momento culminante de la temporada de Pascua y pendiente para el próximo fin de semana, es cuando celebramos el poder transformador del Espíritu Santo que puede renovar la faz de la tierra y el paisaje de nuestras mentes y nuestros corazones. Este es el drama divino que tendrá culminación con la segunda venida del Señor Jesús. La iglesia primitiva experimentó rápidamente un cambio de época, un segundo evento de Pentecostés, en la casa de Cornelio, según los Hechos de los Apóstoles, primera lectura del domingo pasado. (Hechos 10: 25-48)
La mayoría de los católicos pueden identificarse con el primer Pentecostés y el nacimiento de la iglesia cuando el Espíritu Santo, con un fuerte viento y lenguas de fuego, lanzó la proclamación del Evangelio con los 120 discípulos reunidos en oración, incluidos los 12 apóstoles y la Santísima Madre. Pedro, el primero entre iguales de los apóstoles, se puso de pie en medio de la emergente comunidad de creyentes para dirigirse a los judíos devotos reunidos de todas las naciones que estaban en Jerusalén para celebrar la fiesta judía de las Semanas, los primeros frutos de la cosecha. Después de la predicación histórica de Pedro del Kerygma en el contexto de las escrituras hebreas de la historia de la salvación, 3000 fueron bautizados ese día, todos ellos judíos. (Hechos 2:41) La gran comisión del Señor Jesús a los 11 apóstoles antes de ascender al cielo de hacer discípulos de todas las naciones, bautizándolos en el nombre del Padre, Hijo y el Espíritu Santo (Mateo 28:16-20), era su cosmovisión de un mensaje de salvación destinado exclusivamente a los hijos e hijas de Abraham esparcidos en la diáspora.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

El segundo momento de Pentecostés que marcó el comienzo del cambio de era no ocurrió en el centro religioso, económico y cultural de los judíos en Jerusalén, sino en la sala de estar de un pagano. Pedro, nuevamente en el centro del drama divino, en una visión repetitiva fue empujado y aguijoneado por el Espíritu Santo a matar y consumir alimentos inmundos. (Hechos 10:10-16), pero Pedro encontró esto repulsivo y se negó a consentir. Al despertar, llegaron tres extraños y lo dirigieron a la casa de Cornelio, un centurión, donde él y su familia estaban ansiosos por ofrecer hospitalidad al líder preeminente de los discípulos del Señor crucificado y resucitado.
Lo dramático de este encuentro es que Pedro sufrió una conversión radical porque reunirse y mezclarse con los gentiles era la fuente de su repulsión, simbolizada por la comida. Comenzó su discurso sin darse cuenta de que el segundo aguacero de Pentecostés era inminente. En medio de su predicación sobre la historia del Señor crucificado y resucitado, el Espíritu Santo, pasó por encima de Pedro y cayó sobre los gentiles con el fuego del amor de Dios. Este encuentro, aunque fuera de lo común, fue al menos tan dramático como el primero. Pedro y los judíos piadosos de Jerusalén se sorprendieron de que el Espíritu Santo pudiera haber sido derramado sobre los gentiles, los incircuncisos, los paganos y los impuros. (Hechos 10:46) Este momento revolucionario le reveló a Pedro y al liderazgo de la iglesia, todos judíos en ese momento, que el derramamiento de sangre y agua sobre la Cruz y del Espíritu Santo era verdaderamente un don universal.
El gozo se desbordó para muchos de los creyentes, pero esta revelación causó una división considerable en la iglesia primitiva. El Concilio de Jerusalén (Hechos 15) resolvió oficialmente la cuestión del alcance de la Ley Mosaica que incumbiría a los gentiles convertidos, pero la batalla en las trincheras de la vida de la iglesia se prolongó durante generaciones por la necesidad de la circuncisión de los gentiles, la señal del pacto que se remontaba a Abraham.
El primer y segundo momento de Pentecostés, según se registra en los Hechos de los Apóstoles, muestra claramente que el Espíritu Santo, entonces y ahora, se derrama sobre toda la iglesia, especialmente cuando se reúne en oración. A veces, las acciones liberadoras de Dios pueden tomar a todos por sorpresa.
El Papa Francisco llama a estos eventos un desbordamiento de la gracia de Dios y el fundamento de lo que el Papa ve como la necesidad de una sinodalidad activa en la Iglesia. Estos foros de oración, diálogo y discernimiento, donde se reúne la comunidad de creyentes, ordenados y laicos, son tan imprescindibles para la Iglesia en el tercer milenio como en el primero. Dan testimonio de la libertad que conocemos en Jesucristo, la igualdad de dignidad que poseen todas las personas hechas a imagen y semejanza de Dios, y la fraternidad inherente a la Gran Comisión de hacer discípulos de todas las naciones. En efecto, !Ven Espíritu Santo, en nuestro tiempo, e infunde a la iglesia el aliento de Dios!, quien siempre es antiguo y siempre es nuevo.

Let us shepherd with His mind and heart

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Last weekend throughout the Catholic world marked Good Shepherd Sunday at the turning point in the Easter Season. The 23rd psalm is one of the beloved pieces in the psalter in praise of God’s shepherding of his people.
Jesus embraced this image as the cornerstone to portray his mission in our world. In fact, the earliest surviving fresco of Jesus was discovered in the catacombs in the 2nd century depicting the Lord as the Good Shepherd. In last Sunday’s Gospel from John the Lord proclaimed: “I am the Good Shepherd. A Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired hand, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd and I know mine and mine know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

As the Lord shepherds us, He commands that we shepherd with His mind and heart, washing one another’s feet (13, 1ff) and loving one another. (13:34) This standard, first and foremost, is intended for his disciples in all walks of life, but it can be a cornerstone for all who exercise authority, in the home, in society on every level, and, of course, in the church.
Within most groups of people we know there are good shepherds; there are hired hands, and there are wolves. This is true of the clergy, police officers, teachers, parents, healthcare workers, etc. Many genuinely care and lay down their lives for the sheep. Others are working for the paycheck or biding their time, and some are wolves.
Consider the tragic events surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of Derrick Chauvin and other officers. They have degraded the badge and the reputation of many in law enforcement who are good shepherds. One reporter opined that there was a look of indifference on the face of former officer Chauvin, devoid of empathy or remorse. Pope Francis often rails against the pernicious virus of indifference. “Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should be devout, filled with empathy and mercy.” All who lay down their lives to protect the citizenry from the criminal element who have no regard for life or decency, are owed a debt of gratitude. Those in law enforcement who are just collecting a check and biding time must see the urgency of becoming good shepherds. Those who are wolves must be removed.
From the title of Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation, Fraternity and Social Friendship, a conversion of mind and heart that breaks down the walls of racism, and indifference to the plight of people’s suffering is humankind’s best hope. There are parallels in the ranks of the clergy and in every profession. In the sexual abuse crisis in the church it became apparent that there were wolves among the many good shepherds. The good news is that this hidden corruption has been brought into the light of the Gospel and the demands of justice, and genuine conversion and change are transforming the church. The Good Shepherds continue to serve well. Those who may feel like hired hands working for a paycheck are called to stir into a flame the gift they received at ordination. All known wolves are removed.
During this year of St. Joseph we recall the words of Pope Francis who describes the foster father of Jesus’ assent to the Angel Gabriel as a total gift of self in service to Mary, his betrothed, to the Christ child, and to God’s plan of salvation. This silent saint is an outstanding model of a good shepherd. The Christ child was the Good Shepherd who laid down his life as pure gift for the salvation of the world. In turn, we are God’s children now and the gift of self finds its source in our identity as God’s sons and daughters, members of his Son’s body and temples of the Holy Spirit. This is the cornerstone over and against pervasive violence, hatred and indifference.
May the words of the 23rd psalm resonate in our minds and hearts: “The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose … He prepares a table before me; he anoints my head with oil, my cup overflows. Only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall live dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”